Tom O’Hanlon is celebrating a significant birthday – his company, O’Hanlon Herbs, is putting 30 candles on the cake this year, and to mark the occasion it’s bringing a range of exotic herbs to market.
Mind you, when he first started out in a suburban back garden in Dublin in 1988, coriander was considered exotic. How times have changed.
Not only has coriander become one of O’Hanlon Herbs’ most popular products, the fresh herb specialists have expanded year on year and now employ 40 people on their Co Wicklow farm.
Irish tastes have expanded too. To cater for an ever-evolving palette, the company launched four new herbs in rebranded packaging at Bloom earlier this month – lime basil, lemon basil, Thai basil, chocolate mint and strawberry mint.
A new herb infusion will also be available in retail outlets later in the summer.
Tom O’Hanlon explains:
Herb infusions are on trend as they are a healthy alternative to sweetened or alcoholic beverages. When mixed with fruit and other combinations, they make plain water more interesting and healthy.
Herbs, it seems, are having something of a moment.
Gemma Hughes, a herbalist in Waterford city, says more and more people want to know how they can improve health through diet.
One of the easiest ways of doing just that is to start making small dietary changes and what better place to start than with kitchen herbs, she says.
The human body always needs help clearing toxins and reducing inflammation. Herbs are a great tool to do this and are a fantastic health-boosting add-on to the good fresh foods we are already eating, she says.
She became convinced of their health benefits when she used herbal medicine to treat her own endometriosis, a painful disorder affecting the uterus. It took a long time to heal, but over the years she developed and fine-tuned a herbal treatment and is symptom-free.
The experience prompted her to study herbal medicine and now she works as a herbalist and naturopath helping others with a range of conditions.
While a consultation is necessary to treat specific complaints, Gemma Hughes says we can all take small health steps by understanding the properties of herbs and incorporating them into our diet.
They are easily available, cheap and, if you have green fingers, very easy to grow in the smallest spaces. Not to mention delicious, aromatic – and medicinal.
“It’s time to go back to basics. Let’s learn to love herbs,” she tells Feelgood, revealing six of her go-to herbs:
The liver is a high-tech filter that we can make more efficient if we clean and support it. Dandelion is full of minerals, so it replaces those flushed out by the diuretic action of the herb.
Peppermint aids digestion and can ease the bloating associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Some years ago, Gemma Hughes switched from black tea to peppermint to treat her own irritable bowel and found that drinking four strong cups a day helped significantly.
Thyme is antibacterial and helps with breathing. Try making a hot drink with a sprig of thyme and some local Irish honey to keep away sore throats, or to recover from one when it catches hold. It’s an alcohol-free “hot-toddy”.
Sage is anti-inflammatory so it’s a great herb for reducing inflammation in the body. It works on the digestive system especially, drying up excess fluids. Add it to stuffing or stews, or combine it with thyme in a hot drink to dry up the extra phlegm of a sore throat or cold. It has a strong flavour so a small amount is all that’s needed to aid digestion. Adding a few leaves to your stuffing or stew works wonders.
A small amount of parsley in meals will bring many health benefits. The herb helps with indigestion, bad breath and flatulence. It can also benefit the kidneys and blood.
Fennel is great for digestive complaints and can help children with colic. Add it to sauces to ease bloating or use crushed fennel seeds, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
And here’s a tip for summer:
When combined with a non-processed sugar diet, fennel is an amazing herb for a flat tummy in this bikini weather, says Hughes.